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A ‘surprise’ week includes steamy fair

July 8, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

The words "surprise party" conjure up many devious acts to keep the recipient of that surprise from finding out.

In the case of Alysue Kemple Angus, she had apparently seen too many detective shows and figured it out ahead of time.

Therefore, as Ron and Brenda Vandeborne and her sister, Linda, sat outside of the Brooke room at the Holiday Inn in Weirton, along with the McCoys, we didn't quite know what to say when she came sauntering down the hall. Were the five of us supposed to yell out "Surprise" and leave her wondering why we were trying to surprise her by sitting out in the hotel hall or should we just act like it was natural to run into her there?

Her daughter, Eve, who masterminded the Undo's dinner party, told us that she had figured it out, so she didn't see any sense to go further with the deception.

We did all sing "Happy Birthday," led by Brenda, despite Alysue's protests that she did not want it done.

There were two darling little girls scampering about, and they happened to be Alysue's granddaughters: Hannah Nicole, 6, and Maddie, 4, who was very intrigued with a pair of pearls she was wearing.

Alysue and I go back many years. I knew her when her sister, Margaret "Sissy" Kemple Hartsfield, was my 4-H adviser in the Junior Seamstress Club, with Alva Jean Welday Newdome as the other adviser.

I took her to get senior pictures taken at the Carl Mansfield Studio, and we were somewhat late when a car drifted to the edge of the cliff overlooking state Route 7.

The police were not allowing any traffic to pass, as the car could come crashing down on an unsuspecting motorist. I don't remember if we turned around and went across the hills of Mingo Junction or if we waited it out. I know that we got some odd looks when we explained that a car was hanging off the cliff as the reason for being late.

I mentioned 4-H several paragraphs back, and you have probably noticed that there have been activities from that organization in the local news this week.

The 165th-annual Harrison County Fair was held throughout the week, and, as usual, there was a weather problem.

I was talking to Callie Everhart and Allison Dawson, officers of the junior fair board, when an announcement came across the public address system that the area was under a severe weather warning.

In talking with Samantha Wallace, who was manning the secretary's desk when I called, the weather warning did not come to pass. She said there was a little wind and a little rain and that the worst went north of the fairgrounds. Lady luck was with them again.

I think that those associated with the fair board over the years just take the weather with a grain of salt. They have been pelted with severe rains on some years, been hit with high winds on others and endured some severe droughts.

One hot weather season I can remember very well. They had water buffalos all over the fairgrounds for the livestock, and it was then that I learned that a water buffalo is not a big furry creature with horns, it is a huge container holding needed water.

That is the year that the weather almost took me down for the count. I was feeling nauseous, weak and dizzy from the almost 100-degree heat while going about my reporter duties.

A very caring person led me over to the emergency squad that was there awaiting people like me who can't slow down on sizzling days. The EMTs had me lay down in the air conditioned ambulance and gave me something salty to drink.

This year, the midway tent went down for the count on June 29, and some of the trailers had their awnings ripped away, but Steve Birney, outside concessions manager, said that they got off easy. It had stayed southeast of the grounds and concentrated on the village of Cadiz instead.

These steamy hot days left Devanie Gladman's seventh department agricultural products category and the 12th department horticulture category almost bare. Veggies and flowers don't fare well in that kind of weather.

The baked goods department didn't do much better. It was too hot to bake, and those who contributed their canned goods wanted to take them back home, not sell them in auction.

I thoroughly enjoyed the style show that was held at the start of the Junior Fair Night ceremonies.

Hayden Wallace, Green Valley 4-H club member, was taking after his uncle Kyle in sewing. I recall Kyle making a shirt many years ago, and now his nephew is following in his footsteps by making a pair of Bermuda shorts in a patriotic flag design of red, white and blue.

I kept seeing parents that I once knew as 4-H members or maybe the fair king or queen. They now have children of their own showing off a prize steer or a well-cared-for pygmy goat.

Penny Eberhart is one of the examples. I interviewed her for the fair queen contest and did stories on her and all her 4-H projects some time ago. Now she has a daughter, Callie, who is very active in both 4-H and FFA.

The Brightway Center had an open house to show off their many renovations to the former farm homestead of Kara Bright that has been remodeled to become a center for youth to come together to learn and develop Christian moral values.

The welcome center had the addition of a patio that wraps around the side and back of the house. It is paved with smooth, stone tiles and has picnic tables for enjoying outdoor eating. It will soon have a large barbecue pit as well.

The barn is slowly becoming an activity center for sports and special events. It will house up to 150 guests for those who want to rent it for a dinner or party.

For information on renting the welcome center or the activity center, contact Cathy Takach, project manager, at (740) 733-7480. And now Cathy can say that her name appeared in my column. She told me that each time we meet she wonders if her name might be highlighted in a paragraph of my column, but it has never happened.

That was my week. It went by fast, and I can't believe that we are now one week into July.

Where is the summer going? It seems to fly by while winter just drags along in a frozen haze.

(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is food editor and a staff columnist for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at

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